Many UK laws and measures include obligations derived from EU law. We think it right that UK citizens should be able to understand how these laws are made. Our short inquiry considered how transparent the law-making process is, with a specific focus on decision-making in the Council, where UK Ministers meet with their counterparts from other Member States to adopt laws. The evidence we received emphasised the extent to which the Council and its preparatory bodies work by negotiation. While some witnesses called for greater transparency, others warned of the need to preserve the integrity of the decision-making process, and maintain a safe space for discussion and negotiation.
It is clear that we are not the only body concerned about the transparency of the EU legislative process. Not only is the European Ombudsman investigating the transparency of the negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament with the assistance of the European Commission (“trilogues”), the European institutions themselves have recently reached agreement on measures to improve transparency. We see the implementation of this new Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making to be an opportunity to take into account the issues that we have identified, including:
We consider that actions to improve the transparency and accountability of decision-making in the Council should be addressed not only centrally by the European institutions but by the Government and by the House of Commons as a national parliamentary chamber responsible for scrutinising the Government’s position in the Council.
If the referendum results in a vote to remain in the European Union, it is likely that we will revisit proposals for scrutiny reform made in the last Parliament. As part of that process, we will explore further with the Government how the transparency of the EU legislative process might be improved, whether by changes in the Government’s release of information, and by changes in the scrutiny system.
24 May 2016